Rodeo has returned to Houston! Last week, we shared what a typical day was like for the RodeoHouston® sports medicine team. To recap, Houston Methodist serves as the official health care provider for RodeoHouston. The sports medicine team consists of medical volunteers from across the city, who take care of the rodeo athletes and their families before, during and after the competitions.
Just like any other elite athlete, rodeo competitors deal with injuries. But did you know the types of injuries vary by competition? I talked to Dr. Timothy Sitter, the lead orthopedic surgeon on the RodeoHouston sports medicine team, about the rodeo injuries he’s seen in his nearly 20 years working with RodeoHouston.
Tie-Down Roping and Steer Wrestling: The most common injuries in these rodeo athletes occur in the knee. “If you’ve ever wondered why the dirt on the stadium or arena floor is being tilled up between events, it’s to keep it soft for events like tie-down roping and steer wrestling,” Dr. Sitter said. “These cowboys are coming down off their horses fast, so they keep the dirt around one foot-thick and soft because hitting a hard surface, like packed dirt, can cause a lot of damage to the knee.”
Team Roping: As part of this event, the cowboy or cowgirl must wrap the rope around their saddle horn a few times after they’ve roped the steer. Because the steer will pull on and tighten the rope, the competitor’s must wrap the rope around the saddle horn quickly and be sure to get their hands out of the way. Many riders have gotten their fingers caught in the rope while wrapping it around the saddle horn causing damage to or even losing a finger.
Bareback and Saddle Bronc Riding: “Elbow and shoulder injuries are common in this event,” Dr. Sitter said. “The cowboys are holding on to the rope to stay on the horse, so their shoulder and elbow are under a lot of stress. These athletes deal with a lot of sprains, strains and ligament tears.” Dr. Sitter added that most of these cowboys also wear neck collars to help prevent whiplash.
Barrel Racing: The key to barrel racing is to make tight turns around the barrels. Dr. Sitter said many of the cowgirls will hit their knees on the barrels, which can cause ligament tears and even fractures.
Bull Riding: One might think that the most common injury in bull riders is caused by whiplash or getting their hand caught in the rope, but the most common injury in these athletes is to the groin and hip. “The cowboys are holding on to the bull with their knees,” Dr. Sitter said. “The groin and hip muscles are straining because the knees are clinching on to the bull. Many bull riders work on increasing the flexibility in their hips to help prevent groin and hip muscle strains.”
No matter the event or injuries, the cowboys and cowgirls at RodeoHouston have a multi-disciplinary team at the ready to take care of them and get them back in the saddle.